Paul J. Tendler Independent Living Center

2006 AIA Design Award Winner

An innovative community designed to allow adults with developmental disabilities to live independently has been created on 13 acres of land in New Hempstead for a non-profit service provider.


The Project consists of 18 one-bedroom apartments and one two-bedroom unit in four buildings. The design will allow the 19 physically and developmentally disabled residents of this “rampless, stairless” cluster of homes to live in the courtyard setting and maintain a sense of independence.

With this site there was a unique opportunity to create an environment where wheelchair ramps are not necessary. We have eliminated the stairs and replaced them with gently graded slopes, which are easier to negotiate. We can remove barriers to emphasize people’s abilities rather than their disabilities. There is no place where only people who walk can go.

The buildings are scaled to harmonize with the residential neighborhood. Entrance porches provide an opportunity to watch the world go by even in bad weather and offer visual queues for guests.

Since HUD regulations limit each one-bedroom apartment from being larger than 540 square feet, we had to be creative with this design. The units are configured to maximize living space. Each building will feature a parlor, or “community living room,” surrounded by apartments to encourage socialization and increase the living space. The actual apartment space would have been tight without these ‘parlor’ areas. The parlor can be used as a living or dining space, and apartment doors can be left open as residents build relationships.

People sometimes tend to be isolated in apartment settings, and this design changes that. It provides the sense of belonging to an extended family – a sort of community within a community.

LOCATION - Village of New Hempstead, New York
Jawonio (affiliate of United Cerebral Palsy Associations of New York State) 
SIZE - 16,000 SF